Friday, May 6, 2011

A class on glass!!!

Y'all may recall, a while back, I decided to feature a "Vintage" section in my Etsy shop along with my handpainted work.

It was a spur of the moment thing and I grabbed a few "oldies but goodies" from a shelf in the basement and popped them on there. (Yep, Mr. Peanut was one of them!) Lo and behold, some began to sell!! (Folks WANTED my junk! Er, I mean "beloved treasures".)

So, The Big Guy got excited and began to dig out other treasures we've had packed away. Among them was a collection of glass paperweights. These had been collected by a family member who is no longer with us and had been packed away in a box since the mid-80s. All were purchased prior to 1974. They were definitely "vintage."

Problem was - neither of us knew enough about these things. We knew they are collectible but what to look for to determine value was a learning experience for both of us. Thank goodness for the internet!

Wow!! Who'd have thunk! There was a lot to learn just to be able to speak the language of the paperweight collector enough so we could properly market these.

Which brings us to the question, "What's this "we", Kemosabi?" This is the most interested The Big Guy has become in my business since it's inception. I think its got to be a plus. His role in this? He dug them out of storage. He knew when they'd been collected and the geographic area most of them came from and had a rough idea of their original values. I even got him doing a little online research. He's more a "hands-on" guy. He can design and create a program (and does) to run industrial equipment but true research is something he has little experience with. I think he may even have enjoyed this! (Don't let him know I noticed.)

It was my job to put all the information to good use.

A weight's value is in its workmanship, design, rarity and condition and can range from a few dollars to a quarter-mill !!! Visible flaws like bubbles, striations and scratches effect the value. There's a big difference between production flaws and external flaws. Maker's marks are vital to identifying a piece. Many paperweights made between the '40s and the 70's did not have permanent maker's marks and were only marked with a stick on label. (Most of these have been removed or fallen off through the years.) Those that are unmarked need to be identified by style, shape, color, weight, and design. There are, literally, hundreds of marks out there on those that do have signature marks.

Speaking of styles - there are a number of very definitive styles and most designers favor a specific style. Styles include: millefiori, lampwork, sulfide, swirl and crown (among others). Sizes run from the average to miniature and magnums. It's enough to make your head spin!!

One of the most difficult jobs was checking out the markings on those that had them. Marks are generally stamped or etched into the bottom of the weight although a few also have signature marks embedded in the base of the design itself inside the paperweight. There are a variety of sites online to help with this. The one I found most useful and easiest to use was this one .

There is one that I seemed to identify but still have a few doubts about, It's on the flat bottom of two of the weights we have. It's a stamped mark of a sailing ship. Since it was really difficult to focus on against the multi-colored background in the glass, I took a rubbing of it. I thought it was a ship (or multiple ships) or it could possibly have been little houses on a hillside. (O.K., use your imagination!)

We thought most of these pieces came from West Virginia (which at one time had 62 glass factories!!) So, we concentrated on marks from that region. We found a really similar ship mark from Gentile Glass in Star City, WV and I got excited but I just couldn't confidently say they were close enough. I finally went on a paperweight forum online with my rubbing and asked. I was told by experienced collectors this is a mark once used by the Mayflower Glass Company. The current mark of the Mayflower Art Glass Company in England is a a slightly different (but similar) ship. It is not unusual for companies to change their marks every so often or even to use multiple maker's marks denoting different craftsmen within the company. There has also been some discussion of this mark indicating an American company by that name. I have been unable to document this but included it in the information in my shop listing. I'm still just not comfortable making this assumption. (If anyone reading this has more information concerning this mark, I'd love to hear from you.)

It's taken weeks (interrupted by a vacation!) to do the research and determine what we have but I've finally worked my way through it and listed the last one yesterday!!! Thankfully, we've already sold a few, too, which makes all this effort seem a bit more worthwhile. I think The Big Guy was worried we'd both get so wrapped up in these and fall in love with them, refusing to let go. Gotta admit, I was tempted!!!

So, finally,
we've come to the day that I've listed the last one in the shop with as much information as I've been able to gather. please stop by and check them out. They're really beautiful!!! Most are on the 3rd and 4th pages of the shop (or just click on these pictures to get there). I'm going to relax for a few days and then move on to the next storage box.

Have a great weekend, y'all!!

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